We on the East End of Long Island are so blessed to have the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor producing world-class live entertainment! This year we celebrate Bay Street’s 20th anniversary season.
On Bay Street’s stage through June 26 is Jay Presson Allen’s play Tru, starring Darrell Hammond in the title role, as writer and wit Truman Capote. The show opened on Broadway in 1989, but remains fresh and fascinating. Matt McGrath directed this production, with set design by Gary Higom and lighting design by Mike Billings.
The action of Tru takes place just before Christmas, 1975. This was a pivotal time in Capote’s life. Esquire Magazine had just published a chapter of his upcoming book, Answered Prayers. His many rich friends were horrified by his sharing details of their very private lives. According to Tru, he only cares that Babe Paley and Slim Keith have turned away from him. But he is clearly bereft and bemused by his shunning.
The play is witty and colorful, often lifting actual quips from Capote’s life and written excerpts from his books. There are myriad hilarious moments. “Poinsettias are the Bob Goulet of Botany!” comes to mind.
Is Hammond true to Tru? Yes and not so much. Hammond’s impersonation of Truman Capote’s physical and spoken mannerisms is excellent. He sounds like him, he moves like him, right down to the busy hands and overworked eyebrows. His timing is perfect. But not once did this critic feel like Tru was in the room. Missing was a certain depth of emotion. Hammond’s Capote doesn’t seem so very amused by life’s parade of novelties. The real Capote toughed it out with humor and sarcasm, but at this point in his life, he was pretty low. “Desperately sober.”
It’s worth seeing this production to take in Hammond’s impersonation within a well-crafted play, but don’t expect to shed any tears or feel your heart grow. Hammond’s astute impersonations worked remarkable well on the small screen as he portrayed hundreds of personalities on “Saturday Night Live” over 14 years, but live theatre is a much bigger, more demanding animal.
I was particularly taken with the details of the presentation. Andrea Lauer’s costumes have me coveting Capote’s slippers, overcoats and scarves. They worked well to help bring his memory alive. The set is a perfect representation of a wealthy Bohemian’s New York apartment in 1975, right down to the cheesy Christmas tree ornaments. The lighting was effective, delineating different times and moods within the storyline.
Playwright Allen breaks this one-man show up into digestible parts through the use of phone conversations, pre-recorded exchanges, as well as straight-ahead monologue. This is a huge role stuck into small slippers. Bravo to Hammond for tackling it head-on. He does exhibit the quintessential theatrical attribute—fearlessness. Much of the play is Tru speaking directly to the audience, often egging them on to respond. It works.
Perhaps Hammond’s performance will grow in its emotional scope over the run of this show.
TRU at Bay Street Theatre, Long Wharf, Sag Harbor. 631-725-9500. Baystreet.org. [/expand]